The Wrestler (Blu-ray)
All the praise that's been heaped on this moving tale of a broken-down pro wrestler struggling to remain relevant despite his failing body is deserved. (The Academy really snubbed this one in the Best Picture race.) The standout, of course, is Mickey Rourke, whose portrayal of Randy "The Ram" will have even the big boys searching for their hankies by the time this one's down for the count.
Rourke's masterful performance is beautifully matched by turns from Evan Rachel Wood as Randy's bitter estranged daughter and Marisa Tomei, whose aging stripper is — like Randy — struggling to stay in her own game. All of these characters are so vivid and real, and in the hands of Darren Aronofsky, they continually remind us that life must still be lived once the spotlight fades and the crowd stops cheering.
The bonus features on the release are scarce, but they pack a serious punch. In addition to the music video for Bruce Springsteen's title song, there's a roundtable with wrestling icons such as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Lex Luger, "Diamond" Dallas Page and a half-hour making-of featurette that focuses on just how Aronofsky drew such a stirring performance from Rourke. (It's pretty striking stuff, none of which we feel comfortable spoiling here.)
Because the film is purposefully washed out and grainy, the Blu-ray picture doesn't really dazzle. (Though, if it was any clearer, you might actually be able to see Rourke's heart breaking.) Even so, some of the dark strip-club scenes are sharper, and the rocking '80s metal soundtrack does get a nice boost from the standard DVD release.
We loved The Wrestler, and it is worth seeing, especially for anyone who grew up watching professional wrestling. That said, the film is slow, difficult, and heart-wrenching, which makes repeat viewings less likely and a rental absolutely sufficient.